Replanted basil seedlings for the third time, moving pots away from whatever is eagerly devouring my new basil and coriander. A late summer without fresh basil is unthinkable.
The minestra or baby minestrone soup was a great success. The former art teacher called to say it was the best soup she has ever had. Immediately I began planning more soups (that visceral connection between flattered vanity and greed, the urge to show off). Ribolito, I said to the housemate. A pumpkin soup with black beans. An Asian laksa with prawns and udon noodles. A tomato soup made silky with red peppers.
‘I think she meant that it was good as far as soup goes,’ said the housemate. ‘Not a culinary conversion or white-light experience. Not give-me-soup-once-a-day, soup glorious soup, soup, nothing quite like it.’
How would gritty noir-ish crime writer Raymond Chandler have written a cookery book? Amusing parody found here. Not to be emulated.
I sipped on my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim’s, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved. I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat. I wanted them to boil slowly, just about as slowly as anything can boil. An hour and a half and a half-pint of bourbon later they weren’t so tough and neither was I. I separated the meat from the vegetables and covered it. The knife was still in my hand but I couldn’t hear any sirens.
Sadly, I do remember cooking like that and am relieved to still have all my digits, along with too many memories of sloppy over-salted, hyper-spiced dishes swimming in the unvolatilized red wine that hadn’t gone down my gullet. A coroner’s handshake sounds about right. My golden rule for dishes that may have unsuspected quantities of alcohol lurking in them when you are in restaurants or at boozy family reunions is to sniff first. Most of us can tell very quickly if there is port marinading the innocent cherries or a slug of brandy in the jus. If in doubt, don’t touch it.
The serious temptations, though, aren’t usually lurking in the cream sauce or jug of doctored orange juice. Family dynamics are booby-trapped with old hurts and resentments and reminders why we are better off at a meeting rather than fighting those old unwinnable battles around the dining table. Again, and I say this from experience, if in doubt, don’t go there.
Nothing is worth losing sobriety over. Sobriety makes everything else possible.
And this too, a poem Jo posted, written by Judyth Hill:
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of redwing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen
and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.